Chapter II (cont'd)
Vita, Dulcedo
Mary, Our Life, Our Sweetness


Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge-of-Sinners

 

Though you may have hitherto Offended God,
she will Procure you a Sweet and Happy Death

 

Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)
Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope.
To you do we Cry, Poor Banished Children-of-Eve,
to you do we Send-up our Sighs,
Mourning and Weeping in this Valley-of-Tears.
Turn then, most Gracious Advocate
your Eyes-of-Mercy, toward us.
And after this, our Exile,
Show us the Fruit of your Womb, Jesus.
O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary.

 

Nota Bene: Bible Verses quoted in this Book are from the English Douay-Rheims translation, commissioned by the Catholic Church.

 

Chapter II (cont'd)
Vita, Dulcedo
Mary, Our Life, Our Sweetness

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Chapter II, Section III
Mary our Sweetness; she Renders Death, Sweet to her Clients.

"He that is a Friend, Loveth at all times; and a Brother is Proved in Distress" - ("Omni tempore diligit, qui amicus est; et frater in angustiis comprobatur" — Proverbs 17:17), says the Book-of-Proverbs. We can never know our Friends and Relatives, in the Time-of Prosperity; it is only in the Time-of Adversity, that we see them in their True Colors. People of the World never Abandon a Friend, as-long-as he is in Prosperity; but should Misfortunes 'Overtake' him, and more-Particularly, should he be at the Point-of-Death, they Immediately 'Forsake' him. Mary does not 'Act' thus, with her Clients. In their Afflictions, and more-Particularly in the Sorrows-of-Death, the Greatest that can be 'Endured' in this World, this Good Lady and Mother, not only does not 'Abandon' her Faithful Servants, but as, during our Exile, she is our Life, so also is she, at our Last Hour, our Sweetness, by 'Obtaining' for us, a Calm and Happy Death. For from the Day on which Mary had the Privilege and Sorrow of being Present-at the Death of Jesus, her Son, Who was the Head of all the Predestined, it became her Privilege to-Assist also, at their Deaths. And for this Reason, the Holy Church 'Teaches' us to 'Beg' this most Blessed Virgin to 'Assist' us, especially at the Moment-of-Death: "Pray for us Sinners, Now and at the Hour of our Death!" - ("Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae").

Hail Mary, Full of Grace,
The Lord is with you,
Blessed are you among Women,
And Blessed is the Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus. (Gospel-of-Luke)

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us Sinners,
Now and at the Hour of our Death.

Amen

 

 

O how Great are the Sufferings of the Dying! They Suffer from Remorse-of Conscience, on-account-of Past Sins; from Fear of the approaching Judgment; and from the Uncertainty of their Eternal Salvation. Then it is, that Hell Arms Itself, and Spares no-Efforts to Gain the Soul, which is on the Point-of-Entering Eternity (∞); for it Knows that only a Short Time remains, in which to Gain it, and that if it then Loses it, it has Lost it Forever (∞). "The Devil is come down unto you, having Great Wrath, knowing that he hath but a Short Time" - ("Descendit diabolus ad vos, habens iram magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus habet" — Apocalypse 12:12). And for this Reason, the Enemy of our Salvation, whose Charge it was to Tempt the Soul during Life, does not 'Choose' at Death to be Alone, but 'Calls' Others to his Assistance, according to the Prophet Isaiah: "Their Houses shall be Filled with Serpents" - ("Replebuntur domus eorum draconibus" — Isaiah 13:21). And indeed they are so; for when a Person is at the Point-of-Death, the Whole Place in which he is, is Filled with Devils, who All Unite, to make him Lose his Soul.

It is Related-of Saint-Andrew-Avellino, that Ten Thousand Devils came to Tempt him, at his Death. The Conflict that he had in his Agony with the Powers-of-Hell, was so Terrible, that all the Good Religious who 'Assisted' him, 'Trembled'. They saw the Saint's Face, 'Swelled' to such a Degree from Agitation, that it became quite Black, every Limb 'Trembled' and was Contorted; his Eyes 'Shed' a Torrent-of-Tears, his Head 'Shook' Violently; All gave Evidence-of the Terrible Assault he was 'Enduring', on the part of his Infernal Foes. All 'Wept' with Compassion, and Redoubled their Prayers, and at the same Time, Trembled with Fear, on Seeing a Saint, Die thus. They were, however, Consoled at Seeing, that often, as if 'Seeking' for Help, the Saint 'Turned' his Eyes towards a Devout Picture of Mary; for they Remembered that during Life, he had often said that at Death, Mary would be his Refuge. At-length, God was Pleased-to put an End to the Contest, by 'Granting' him a Glorious Victory; for the Contortions-of his Body 'Ceased', his Face 'Resumed' its original Size and Color, and the Saint, with his Eyes tranquilly Fixed-on the Picture, made a Devout Inclination to Mary (who it is believed, then Appeared to him), as if in the Act-of 'Thanking' her, and with a Heavenly Smile on his Countenance, Tranquilly Breathed-forth his Blessed Soul into the Arms-of-Mary. At the same Moment, a Capuchiness, who was in her Agony, turning to the Nuns who Surrounded her, said, "Recite a Hail Mary; for a Saint has just Expired".

Ah, how Quickly do the Rebellious Spirits Fly-from the Presence-of this Queen! If at the Hour-of-Death, we have only the Protection-of Mary, what need we Fear from all our Infernal Enemies? David, Fearing the Horrors-of-Death, 'Encouraged' himself by Placing his Reliance on the Death of the 'Coming' Redeemer, and on the Intercession of the Virgin Mother. "For though", he says, "I should Walk in the midst-of the Shadow-of-Death . . . thy Rod and thy Staff, they have Comforted me" - ("Et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis . . . virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt" — Psalm 22:4). Cardinal Hugo, 'Explaining' these Words of the Royal Prophet, says that the 'Staff' signifies the Cross, and the 'Rod' is the Intercession-of Mary; for she is the Rod, Foretold-by the Prophet Isaiah: "And there shall come forth a Rod, out of the Root of Jesse, and a Flower shall Rise up out of his Root" - ("Egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet" — Isaiah 11:1). "This Divine Mother", says Saint-Peter-Damian, "is that Powerful Rod, with which the Violence of the Infernal Enemies is Conquered" - ("Haec est virga illa, qua retunduntur impetus adversantium daemoniorum" — S. de Assumpt.). And therefore does Saint Antoninus 'Encourage' us, saying, "If Mary is for us, who shall be against us?" - ("Si Maria pro nobis, quis contra nos?").

When Father-Emanuel-Padia, of the Society-of-Jesus, was at the Point-of-Death, Mary 'Appeared' to him; and to 'Console' him, she said: "See, at-length the Hour is come, when the Angels Congratulate thee, and exclaim: O Happy Labors, O Mortifications well Requited!" And in the same Moment, an Army-of-Demons was seen Taking its Flight, and Crying out in Despair: "Alas! we can do nought, for she who is without Stain, Defends him". In like manner, Father-Gaspar-Haywood was Assaulted by Devils at his Death, and Greatly Tempted against Faith; he Immediately 'Recommended' himself to the most Blessed Virgin, and was Heard to Exclaim, "I Thank thee, Mary, for thou has come to my Aid" (Menol. 28 Apr. — 9 Jan.).

Saint Michael the Archangel,
Prince of the Heavenly Host,
Defend us in Battle,
Be our Protection against the Wickedness,
and Snares of the Devil
 

Saint Bonaventure tells us that Mary 'Sends' without Delay, the Prince-of the Heavenly Court, Saint Michael, with all the Angels, to 'Defend' her Dying Servants, against the Temptations-of-the-Devils, and to 'Receive' the Souls of all, who in a Special Manner, and Perseveringly have 'Recommended' themselves to her. The Saint, 'Addressing' our Blessed Lady, says, "Michael, the Leader and Prince of the Heavenly Army, with all the Administering Spirits, Obeys thy Commands, O Virgin, and Defends and Receives the Souls of the Faithful, who have particularly Recommended themselves to thee, O Lady, Day and Night" - ("Michael, dux et princes militiae coelestis, cum omnibus spiritibus administratoriis, tuis, Virgo, paret praeceptis, in defendendis in corpore et suscipiendis de corpore animabus fidelium, specialiter tibi, Domina, die ac nocte se commendantium" — Spec. B. V. lect. 3).

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that when a Man is on the Point-of Leaving-the-World, Hell is 'Opened' and 'Sends'-forth its most Terrible Demons, both to Tempt the Soul before it 'Leaves' the Body, and also to 'Accuse' it, when Presented-before the Tribunal-of-Jesus-Christ for Judgment. The Prophet says, "Hell below was in an Uproar, to meet thee at thy coming; it stirred up the Giants for thee" - ("Infernus subter conturbatus est in occursum adventus tui; suscitabit tibi gigantes" — Isaiah 14:9). But Richard-of-Saint-Laurence remarks that when the Soul is 'Defended-by' Mary, the Devils Dare-not even 'Accuse' it, Knowing that the Judge never Condemned, and never will Condemn, a Soul 'Protected-by' His 'August' Mother. He asks, "Who would dare accuse one who is Patronized by the Mother of Him Who is to Judge?" - (Quis apud Filium accusare audeat, cui viderit Matrem patrocinantem?" — De Laud V. l. 2, p. 1). Mary not only 'Assists' her Beloved Servants at-Death and 'Encourages' them, but she herself 'Accompanies' them to the Tribunal-Seat-of-God.

As Saint Jerome says, Writing-to the Virgin Eustochia, "What a Day of Joy will that be for thee, when Mary the Mother of our Lord, accompanied by Choirs of Virgins, will go to meet thee" - ("Qualis erit illa dies, quum tibi Maria, Mater Domini, choris occurret comitata virgineis?" — De Cust. Virg.). The Blessed Virgin 'Assured' Saint Bridget of this; for, speaking of her Devout Clients at the Point-of-Death, she said, "Then will I, their Dear Lady and Mother, fly to them, that they may have Consolation and Refreshment" - ("Ideo, ego carissima domina eorum et Mater, occurram eis in morte, ut etiam in ipsa morte consolationem et refrigerium habeant" — Rev. l. 1, c. 29). Saint-Vincent-Ferrer says, that not only does the Most Blessed Virgin Console and Refresh them, but that "she Receives the Souls of the Dying" - ("Beata Virgo animas morientium suscipit"). This Loving Queen takes them under her Mantle, and thus 'Presents' them to the Judge, her Son, and most certainly 'Obtains' their Salvation. This really happened to Charles, the Son-of Saint Bridget (Rev. l. 7, c. 13), who Died in the Army, far from his mother. She Feared much for his Salvation , on-account-of the Dangers to which Young Men are 'Exposed', in a Military Career; but the Blessed Virgin 'Revealed' to her, that he was Saved on-account-of his Love for her, and that in consequence, she herself had Assisted him at Death, and had 'Suggested' to him, the Acts that should be 'Made', at that Terrible Moment. At the same Time, the Saint saw Jesus on His Throne, and the Devil bringing Two (2) Accusations against the most Blessed Virgin: the First (1st) was, that Mary had 'Prevented' him from Tempting Charles, at the Moment-of-Death; and the Second (2nd) was that this Blessed Virgin had herself 'Presented' his Soul to the Judge, and so Saved it, without even giving him the Opportunity of Exposing the Grounds on which he 'Claimed' it. She then saw the Judge 'Drive' the Devil away, and Charles's Soul Carried-to Heaven.

Ecclesiasticus says, that "her Bands are a Healthful Binding" - ("Vincula illus, alligatura salutaris" — Ecclesiasticus 6:31), and that "in the latter End, thou shalt find Rest in her" - ("In novissimis invenies requiem in ea" — Ecclesiasticus 6:29). O, you are indeed Fortunate, my Brother, if at Death, you are Bound-with the Sweet Chains of the Love of the Mother of God! These Chains are Chains-of-Salvation; they are Chains that will Insure your Eternal Salvation, and will make you Enjoy in Death, that Blessed Peace, which will be the Beginning-of your Eternal (∞) Peace and Rest. Father Binetti, in his Book-on the Perfections of Our Blessed Lord, says, "that having attended the Death-bed of a Great Lover of Mary, he heard him, before Expiring, utter these Words: 'O my Father, would that you could know the Happiness that I now Enjoy from having Served the most Holy Mother of God; I cannot tell you the Joy that I now Experience'" (Chef-d'oeuvre de D. p. 3, ch. 6). Father Suarez (in-consequence-of his Devotion to Mary, which was such that he used to say that he would Willingly 'Exchange' all his Learning, for the Merit of a Single (1) "Hail Mary") Died with such Peace and Joy, that in that Moment he said, "I could not have thought that Death was so Sweet" - ("Non putabam tam dulce esse mori"); meaning, that he could never have Imagined that it was Possible, if he had not then 'Experienced' it, that he could have Found such Sweetness in Death.

You, Devout Reader, will, without doubt, 'Experience' the same Joy and Contentment in Death, if you can then 'Remember' that you have Loved this Good Mother, who cannot be otherwise than Faithful to her Children, who have been Faithful in Serving and Honoring her, by their Visits, Rosaries, and Fasts; and still more, by frequently Thanking and Praising her, and often Recommending themselves to her Powerful Protection. Nor will this Consolation be withheld, even if you have been for a Time, a Sinner; provided that, from this Day, you are Careful to-Live Well, and to-Serve this most Gracious and Benign Lady. In your Gains, and in the Temptations to Despair which the Devil will send you, she will Console you, and even 'Come' herself to Assist you, in your Last Moments.

Mary Offers us the Protection of her Mantel.
Mary's Office is to Gather all her Children
together into Heaven, with her Son, Jesus
 

Such also will be your Death, Beloved Reader, if you are Faithful to Mary. Though you may have hitherto 'Offended' God, she will 'Procure' you a Sweet and Happy Death. And if by-chance, at that Moment, you are Greatly Alarmed and Lose Confidence at the Sight-of your Sins, she will Come and Encourage you, as she did Adolphus, Count-of-Alsace, who 'Abandoned' the World, and 'Embraced' the Order-of-Saint-Francis. In the Chronicles-of that Order, we are told that he had a Tender Devotion to the Mother of God; and that when he was at the Point-of-Death, his Former Life and the Rigors-of Divine Justice, 'Presented' themselves before his Mind, and 'Caused' him to Tremble at the Thought-of Death, and Fear for his Eternal Salvation. Scarecely had these Thoughts entered his Mind, when Mary (who is always Active when her Servants are in- Pain), accompanied-by many Saints, 'Presented' herself before the Dying Man, and Encouraged him with Words of the Greatest Tenderness, saying: "My own Beloved Adolph, thou art mine, thou hast given thyself to me, and now why thou Fear Death so-much?" On Hearing these Words, the Servant-of Mary was Instantly Relieved, Fear was Banished-from his Soul, and he 'Expired' in the midst-of the Greatest Peace and Joy (Auriemma, Aff. Scamb. p. 2, c. 8).

Let us then be of Good Heart, though we be Sinners, and Feel-certain that Mary will Come and Assist us at Death, and Comfort and Console us with her Presence, Provided only that we Serve her with Love, during the Remainder of the Time that we have to be in this World. Our Queen, One Day addressing Saint Matilda, 'Promised' that she would 'Assist' All her Clients at Death, who, during their Lives, had Faithfully Served her. "I, as a most Tender Mother, will Faithfully be Present at the Death of All, who Piously Serve me, and will Console and Protect them" - ("Ego omnibus, qui mihi pie et sancta deserviunt, volo in morte fidelissime tamquam mater piissima, adesse, eosque consolari ac protegere" — Apud Blos. Concl. An. fid. C. 12). O God, what a Consolation will it be, at that Last Moment of our Lives, when our Eternal (∞)Lot has so soon to be 'Decided', to see the Queen-of-Heaven Assisting and Consoling us, with the Assurance-of her Protection.

Besides the Cases already given, in which we have seen Mary 'Assisting' her Dying Servants, there are Innumerable (∞) others, Recorded in Different Works. This Favor was Granted-to Saint Clare; to Saint Felix, of the Order-of-Capuchins; to Saint-Clare-of-Montefalco; to Saint Teresa; to Saint-Peter-of-Alcantara. But, for our Common Consolation, I will Relate the following: Father Crasset (Vér. Dév. p. 1, tr. 1, q. 11) tells us, that Mary-of-Oignies saw the Blessed Virgin at the Pillow-of a Devout Widow-of-Willenbroc, who was Ill with a Violent Fever. Mary stood by her side, Consoling her, and Cooling her with a fan. Let us Close this Subject with another Example, in which we shall see how Great is the Tenderness of this Good Mother towards her Children, at Death.

 

Example

Of Saint-John-of-God, who was Tenderly Devoted to Mary, it is Related that he Fully Expected that she would Visit him on his Deathbed; but not Seeing her Arrive, he was Afflicted, and perhaps even Complained. But when his Last Hour had come, the Divine Mother appeared, and Gently Reproving him for his little Confidence, addressed him in the following Tender Words, which may well Encourage all Servants-of Mary: "John, it is not in me, to Forsake my Clients at such a Moment". As though she had said: "John, of what wast thou thinking? Didst thou Imagine that I had Abandoned thee? And dost thou not know that I never Abandon my Clients at the Hour-of-Death? If I did not come sooner, it was that thy Time was not yet Come; but now that it is Come, Behold me here to Take thee; let us go to Heaven". Shortly afterwards the Saint Expired, and Fled-to that Blessed Kingdom, there to Thank his most Loving Queen for all Eternity (∞).

"Haec est hora qua devotis meis famulis deesse nunquam soleo" — Boll. 8 Mart. Vit. 2, c. 8.)

 

Prayer

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O my Most Sweet Mother, how shall I Die, Poor Sinner that I am? Even now the Thought of that Important Moment, when I must Expire, and Appear before the Judgment Seat of God, and the Remembrance that I have myself so often Written my Condemnation, by Consenting-to Sin, makes me Tremble. I am Confounded, and Fear much for my Eternal Salvation. O Mary, in the Blood-of-Jesus, and in thy Intercession, is All my Hope. Thou art the Queen-of-Heaven, the Mistress of the Universe; in short, thou art the Mother-of-God. Thou art Great, but thy Greatness does not Prevent, nay even it Inclines thee to Greater Compassion towards us, in our Miseries. Worldly Friends, when Raised to Dignity, Disdain to Notice their Former Friends, who may have Fallen into Distress. Thy Noble and Loving Heart, does not Act thus, for the Greater the Miseries it Beholds, the Greater are its Efforts to Relieve. Thou, when Called-upon, dost Immediately Assist; nay more, thou dost Anticipate our Prayers by thy Favors; thou Consolest us in our Afflictions; thou Dissipatest the Storms, by which we are Tossed-about; thou Overcomest all Enemies; thou, in Fine', never Losest an Occasion to Promote our Welfare. May that Divine Hand, which has United in thee, such Majesty and such Tenderness, such Greatness and so much Love, be Forever Blessed! I Thank my Lord for it, and Congratulate myself in having so Great an Advantage; for Truly in thy Felicity do I Place my Own, and I consider thy Lot as mine. O Comfortress-of-the-Afflicted, Console a Poor Creature who Recommends himself to thee. The Remorse of a Conscience, Overburdened with Sin, Fills me with Affliction. I am in-Doubt as to whether I have Sufficiently Grieved for them. I see that all my Actions are Sullied and Defective; Hell awaits my Death, in-order-to Accuse me; the Outraged Justice of God, Demands Satisfaction. My Mother, what will become of me? If thou dost not Help me, I am Lost.  What Sayest thou, wilt thou Assist me? O Compassionate Virgin, Console me; Obtain for me True Sorrow for my Sins; Obtain for me, Strength to Amend, and to be Faithful to God during the Rest of my Life. And finally, when I am in the Last Agonies-of-Death, O Mary, my Hope, Abandon me not; then, more than ever, Help and Encourage me, that I may not Despair at the Sight of my Sins, which the Evil One will then place before me. My Lady, Forgive my Temerity; come thyself to Comfort me with thy Presence in that Last Struggle. This Favor thou hast Granted to many, Grant it also to me. If my Boldness is Great, thy Goodness is Greater; for it goes in Search of the most Miserable, to Console them. On this I rely. For thy Eternal Glory, let it be said that thou hast Snatched a Wretched Creature from Hell, to which he was already Condemned, and that thou hast led him to thy Kingdom. O yes, Sweet Mother, I Hope to have the Consolation of Remaining-always at thy Feet, in Heaven, Thanking and Blessing and Loving thee Eternally. O Mary, I shall Expect thee at my Last Hour; Deprive me not of this Consolation.

Fiat, fiat.

Amen, amen.